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Synopsis

The Portrait of a Lady is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan's Magazine in 1880-81 and then as a book in 1881. It is one of James's most popular long novels, and is regarded by critics as one of his finest.

The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who "affronts her destiny" and finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates.

Like many of James's novels, it is set mostly in Europe, mostly England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of James's early period, this novel reflects James's continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, betrayal, and sexuality.

The Portrait of a Lady was turned into a film in 1996 by New Zealand director Jane Campion, starring Nicole Kidman as Isabel, John Malkovich as Osmond, and Barbara Hershey as Madame Merle.

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